Hawkeyes' young wrestlers deliver, seniors tumble at NCAAs
ST. LOUIS – For Iowa to salvage a shot at the team title after a slow start at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, the young guys will have to take the lead.
Of the six Hawkeyes who advanced in the championship bracket during Thursday's first session, only Mike Evans — who grinded out a 4-1 win over Indiana's Nathan Jackson at 174 pounds — is a senior.
Seniors Josh Dziewa, Michael Kelly, Nick Moore and Bobby Telford were beaten — with Dziewa (seeded fifth) and Telford (third) being the shockers in their final first round of their NCAA careers.
"I'm sure (it hurts), but the tournament's not over. So you can leave here feeling pretty good," Iowa coach Tom Brands said. "That's a hard thing to imagine 48-plus hours from now. That's how you've got to move forward, for sure."
It was the young guys who did what the Hawkeyes needed early Thursday — win, and win big.
Sixth-seeded sophomore Thomas Gilman (125), fourth-seeded freshman Brandon Sorensen (149), ninth-seeded sophomore Sammy Brooks (184) and sixth-seeded junior Nathan Burak (197) combined for 19 takedowns and each scored major decisions — which, in the NCAA Championships, is worth a crucial extra point in the team standings.
Iowa was tied for fifth place, with 10 points — four of the bonus variety — after the first session. Brands spoke earlier this week about the importance of accruing bonus points, saying, "They're not play points."
Gilman followed that directive in his first-ever NCAA Championships match. He toyed with Stanford's Evan Silver (whom he beat 4-1 unattached as a true freshman), scoring a 14-4 win.
Fellow NCAA first-timers Sorensen and Brooks showed that extra urgency, as did Burak — whose 18-4 domination of Edinboro's Vincent Pickett was the most points he's scored in a bout since the Luther Open in November.
Third-seeded sophomore Cory Clark, who may have Iowa's most winnable path to Saturday night's finals at 133, got ahead early and hung on for a 7-5 win over Lehigh's Ronald Perry.
Clark and the championship-bracket cohorts have their own mission — while the four seniors in the consolations are left with another.
It takes seven match wins in the consolation bracket to battle all the way back to third place.
"It's one match tonight, then you go from there," Brands said. "You just go one match at a time. That's what you do."
IOWA'S SECOND-ROUND MATCHUPS
125 — #6 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) vs. #11 Jordan Conaway (Penn State)
133 — #3 Cory Clark (Iowa) vs. #14 Rossi Bruno (Michigan)
149 — #4 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) vs. #13 Charles Cobb (Penn)
174 — #3 Mike Evans (Iowa) vs. #4 Andy McCulley (Wyoming)
184 — #9 Sammy Brooks (Iowa) vs. #8 Domenic Abounader (Michigan)
197 — #6 Nathan Burak (Iowa) vs. Jake Tindle (SIU-Edwardsville)
IOWA'S CONSOLATION MATCHUPS
141 — #5 Josh Dziewa (Iowa) vs. Mike Pongracz (Chattanooga)
157 — Michael Kelly (Iowa) vs. Alex Elder (Oregon State)
165 — Nick Moore (Iowa) vs. Mitchell Polkowske (Northern Colorado)
285 — #3 Bobby Telford (Iowa) vs. J.J. Everard (San Diego State)